Whose Data Is It Anyway?

Once you put it on the internet, it’s not yours, no matter what you think.

No matter what you do, it’s going to live on somewhere. So a kerfuffle over this sort of stuff is sort of meaningless. From the BBC:

    Social network giant Facebook has blocked a website from accessing people’s profiles in order to delete their online presence.

    The site, Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, offers to remove users from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Myspace.

    It does not delete their accounts but changes the passwords and removes “friend” connections.

Facebook has taken action against several of these services, known collectively as “screen scrapers,” claiming that they violate Facebook’s terms of service because persons who wish to use such services must turn their login names and passwords over to third parties.

Alex Salkever, writing at DailyFinance dot com, has a different take:

    While services like Seppukoo and Web 2.0 Suicide Machine may be violating the letter of Facebook’s rules, it may not be violating the spirit of them. Screen scraping, which is prohibited by Google, Yahoo and others, as well, is considered a problem when third-parties republish the scraped data onto another site. That doesn’t appear to be the case with these services at all.

    Rather, Facebook’s issue seems to have a lot more to do with the company’s bottom line. Anything that makes it easy for Facebook users to extract themselves from the social network is a serious revenue hazard to the sprawling giant, which is preparing for what is likely to be one of the hottest initial public offerings in 2010. Reports that MySpace and Twitter are blocking the service have not surfaced. (I’d try to verify them using the service but I don’t want to wipe out my Web 2.0 presence, thank you).

Ad rates are ultimately based on eyeballs. The more difficult it is for eyeballs to leave, the higher the ad rates.

One of the things that has troubled me about using Facebook (which is the only social networking site I do use, having been requested to join it by a colleague on another side of this life) is the difficulty of extricating oneself from it. But, frankly, that’s more of a cosmetic objection than a substantive one–I am troubled by how difficult Facebook makes it to leave, but I do not kid myself that their making it easier to delete accounts would really change anything.

Nothing on the internet ever really disappears; it just gets archived somewhere. For example, the New York Times details the horrors of breaking up in a digital age, in which digital reminders of past loves never seem to go away (Aside: Yeah, I know: the New York Times clearly has too much time on its hands).

With no apology to Shakespeare:

    The good will be interred with a click;
    the stupid will live on forever.

The key to not being embarrassed in public is not to do it in the first place–at least, not to do it in public–for the internet is a public place.

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